خدمات الکترونیکی در بخش دولتی: چارچوب مفهومی
|کد مقاله||سال انتشار||تعداد صفحات مقاله انگلیسی||ترجمه فارسی|
|9179||2013||10 صفحه PDF||سفارش دهید|
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Publisher : Elsevier - Science Direct (الزویر - ساینس دایرکت)
Journal : Government Information Quarterly, Volume 30, Issue 2, April 2013, Pages 163–172
Electronic services provided by governmental organizations, here referred to as public e-services, are frequently discussed in the e-government literature. There is, however, little consensus on the meaning of the concepts used to describe and discuss these e-services, and hence, the literature is full of synonymous terms and concepts. This paper is conceptual and presents efforts to understand e-services in the public sector domain by unpacking the public e-service concept into three dimensions; as being (1) a service, (2) electronic, and (3) public (as contrasted to being private). Based on a hermeneutic analysis, these dimensions are discussed in a number of combinations, illustrating that a multi-dimensional take on public e-services must be adopted in order to capture the complexity of governmentally supplied e-services and contribute to theory development, as well as practical utility.
Electronic government (e-government) and the use of electronic services in public sector organizations, here called public e-services, are currently significant themes in research on information systems (IS) and public administration (PA) (e.g., Bekkers and Homburg, 2005, Dawes, 2009 and Scholl, 2010). This is hardly surprising considering the increase of development and use of e-services in the public sector (Ancarani, 2005). What might come as a surprise, however, is the large number of concepts used to describe e-services delivered by governmental agencies. Journal articles, conference papers and reports on e-government and public e-services testify of a research field full of related concepts that appear to be used synonymously: e-government service (e.g., Jansen, de Vries, & van Schaik, 2010), e-service (e.g., Boyer et al., 2002 and Kaisara and Pather, 2011), public e-service (e.g., Karlsson, Holgersson, Söderström, & Hedström, 2012), digital service (Re, 2010), e-Public-Service (Lenk, 2002) and Website channel (Ebbers, Pieterson, & Noordman, 2008); to name a few. It is, however, difficult to know with certainty that these concepts are representing the same phenomenon, since provocatively many scholars omit explicit definitions of the concepts they use. For example, if we take a look at the e-service concept, there are definitions of both e-service (e.g., Boyer et al., 2002) and public e-service (e.g., Buckley, 2003) produced by e-government researchers, but in surprisingly many publications on e-services in the e-government context, the meaning of e-service seems to be taken for granted — many scholars do not define or discuss what the concept e-service refers to at all. E-government research has been criticized for “ghetto-ization” (Pollitt, 2011), “conceptual vagueness” (Yildiz, 2007) and “theoretical neglect” (Dunleavy et al., 2006 and Heeks and Bailur, 2007), referring to the inability to build on previous results and theory development from e-government research as well as adjoining fields of research. The variety of concepts and definitions used to study and describe e-services in the e-government context not only makes it difficult for researchers and practitioners to discuss use and development of e-services in the public sector; it also makes e-government research on e-services an easy prey for the critics as it illustrates difficulties for researchers to build knowledge in a cumulative manner. In this paper, we explore and discuss the meaning of the concept public e-service, a concept that, we argue, encompasses most of the concepts used to denote electronic interfaces between governments and citizens. The challenges with the concept public e-service are, however, manifold. The term e-service contains two parts: the e- and the service. These two parts can be seen to represent two different things. The ‘e’ represents that something is done ‘electronically’ and can thus be linked to an electronic artifact. The ‘service’ represents something intangible — a process in which value is created for someone. Hence, the e-service concept can be explored from both an (1) electronic artifact (technology) perspective, and a (2) service perspective. When considering the organizational context in which the e-service is used, yet another perspective is added. This perspective highlights the ownership or availability of the artifact or service; a perspective in which attention is directed towards exploring potential implications based on whether the e-service is (3) public or private. The community of researchers concerned with e-government and public e-services is truly multidisciplinary and the interests of the individual e-government researcher guides which of these perspectives on the public e-service will be adopted. The multidisciplinary nature of the field strengthens the e-government research in many ways (Scholl, 2007), but can make conceptual discussions difficult. This possibility to perceive and interpret the phenomenon that the concept e-service refers to in several different ways might be an influencing factor to why the concept (public) e-service is used synonymously with several other concepts. In order to increase the analytical generalizability, conceptual maturity and practical benefit of e-government research, researchers concerned with e-services need to define what they are referring to when discussing public e-services. Furthermore, multidisciplinary is not the same as interdisciplinary. Increased communication between researchers of different disciplines is needed if the e-government field is to avoid the alleged ghetto-ization and, in turn, stimulate knowledge accumulation. The aims of this paper are to discuss the public e-service concept from an interdisciplinary perspective and propose a broad conceptual framework for comprehending public e-services. The paper is hence conceptual and presents efforts to understand e-services in the public sector domain in order to prepare grounds for disambiguation of terminological and conceptual variations as well as conflicts observed in the e-government context. The paper is built on the assumption that in order to explain social phenomena we need concepts to think about them (Pollitt, 2011). We argue that conceptual refinement is an important step towards combating the theoretical underdevelopment claimed to plague e-government research (Heeks & Bailur, 2007). Conceptual frameworks provide the “metatheoretic language”, which is necessary for talking about and developing theories, i.e. help to identify the necessary elements as well as relationships between these elements (Ostrom, 2005, p. 28). The concept of public e-services has suffered from what Sartori (1970) refers to as “conceptual stretching”, i.e. vague conceptualization: it can be everything or nothing. Simultaneously, it is important to recognize the complexity of the concept and understand that omitting one perspective could exclude significant insights. A conceptual framework for public e-services thus has to balance a holistic perspective without resorting to vagueness. Here, we believe there are significant winnings in conceptual clarification to be made by adopting an interdisciplinary perspective, as well as an interpretative and hermeneutic approach, thus unpacking the public e-service concept into its parts and refine their meaning. This means building on previous research and theorization made within e-government research and adjoining fields of research. After this introduction, the paper is organized in the following manner. First, our research perspective and approach is briefly described. Second, the meaning of the terms service and e-service is discussed. Third, some of the main characteristics of public organizations vis-á-vis private organizations are investigated, in order to clarify the public prefix. Based on these discussions the concept public e-service is addressed. The paper is concluded with a discussion on the main issues and questions that emerge when adopting a holistic perspective of public e-services.
نتیجه گیری انگلیسی
The discussion in this article is based on a hermeneutic review and analysis of literature on e-services in the public sector, a phenomenon we have chosen to denote public e-service. The aim has been to discuss public e-services from an interdisciplinary perspective and propose a broad conceptual framework for comprehending public e-services. We will in this concluding section turn to the second part of this aim and present our conceptual framework, as well as propose examples for how it can be applied as a stepping stone for various research issues and analytical approaches. Considering the multidisciplinary character of e-government research and the complexity of the e-service phenomenon, we do not believe that it is possible, or even advisable, to try to formulate one general, one-size-fits-all, definition of what a public e-service refers to. There are different needs for detail and level of abstraction of the concept depending on specific research objectives and disciplinary belonging. Based on the insights made when investigating the three key dimensions of public e-services, we do argue, however, that there is a need for researchers concerned with e-services in the e-government context to (1) do a better job of explicitly characterizing and stating what she/he considers a public e-service to be in relation to her/his research; but also to (2) see public e-services as having several dimensions and thus extend the characterization beyond a one sided outlook. This means adopting a more interdisciplinary, rather than merely multidisciplinary, outlook. These two measures are interlinked and are both of great importance if we want to increase the analytical generalizability, conceptual maturity and practical benefit of e-government research. Thus, rather than to create a general and common understanding of public e-services, our conceptual framework strives towards structuring the understanding of the concept and thus bringing some order to a fragmented field. E-government research is generally practice-oriented and is hence tightly coupled with e-government implementation in practice. This close relationship between theory and practice is a prerequisite for identifying research needs and creating useful theories (Corley & Gioia, 2011). However, as e-government researchers, we must preserve this close relationship without falling into the trap of becoming overly, or prematurely, normative or prescriptive in order to satisfy our practice partners. When formulating normative or prescriptive statements for e-government practice, we must be aware of that the way we rhetorically interpret something often influences how we deal with it in practice (Røvik, 2000); implying that vague conceptualization of public e-services may lead to vague understanding thereof, and, in turn, poor advise for practice. We must thus be aware of our interpretations before we can start give normative advice. This is not only important for the e-government practice, but also for e-government research; our interpretations must be explicitly stated in order to enable for researchers to build cumulatively on each other's work. In addition, it is our firm belief that in order to generate useful theories concerning public e-services, we must allow for the inherent complexities and contradictions of the phenomenon. This argument is in line with the emergent perspective on the relationship between technology and organizational change, as discussed by Markus and Robey (1988), in which the complexity and unpredictability of the process is emphasized. In order to encourage a more succinct, yet multi-relational, understanding and discussion, we therefore propose a three-dimensional conceptualization of public e-services. Basically, a public e-service can be viewed with each of its dimensions in focus, meaning that it can be viewed as being (1) a service, (2) electronic, and (3) public (in contrast to being private). Each dimension can be put in the foreground separately or in combination with (an)other dimension(s) (e.g., public e-, e-service, public service, and so on), but all dimensions should, we argue, always be acknowledged to some extent. Adopting a three dimensional view on public e-services unveils a complex phenomenon but also facilitates a more distinct and multi-relational way of conceptualizing the term and lays the foundation of our conceptual framework. Against the earlier discussion on how public e-services can be understood, Table 1 presents the main characteristics of public e-services. By relating these characteristics to each other, they can be used for addressing a multitude of issues, depending on which dimension is put in the foreground. Note that the issues presented here are only illustrative issues for consideration and can be expanded with further in-depth investigations and combinations of the dimensions.Depending on the dimension(s) in focus, the framework can be used as a starting point for a variety of theoretical approaches; investigating issues related to e.g., policy implementation theories, agenda-setting, power structures, user adoption, interoperability, and e-government stakeholders. By using a three dimensional and multi-relational perspective, in-depth investigations of the different dimensions can contribute with pieces to a totality, rather than end up as isolated islands where researchers do not communicate with, or talk past, each other. We perceive this work as an important step towards systematically capturing the complexity of the field and thereby disentangling the concept of public e-services. The above discussion also signifies the practical importance of viewing public e-services in three dimensions. Practitioners, even more so than researchers, should be aware of all three dimensions. Whereas researchers can choose to focus one or two dimensions more in-depth, practitioners ought to opt for a broader view including all dimensions simultaneously, rather than an in-depth view of each dimension of the framework. In fact, the latter is what currently is being practiced, for instance, the implications of the public context tend to be neglected when private solutions and actors dominate the field of public e-services. Similarly, the interpretation of the term service tends to focus on e-services as an end-product rather than a process and thus underestimate the complexity of the phenomenon. Neglecting one or more dimension of the concept can have consequences for how public e-services are designed and provided, and thus affect both the internal organization of governments and the citizens' experiences thereof.